Wednesday, August 19, 2009

User Experience Management Lessons: How to screw up and lose business: A case story

Club Mahindra owns chain of resorts in India. As per my understanding, in simple terms, they rely on membership fees and in-resort expenses by customers as its business model.

Their marketing strategy to identify customers seems to be good. They target visitors to Malls, Multiplexes, Shopping chains where their possible profile of customers visit. Conduct in-mall advertising or conduct draws to attract consumers. They claim to give free gift vouchers for selected people at certain outlets. The first twist starts here.

You get a call from their team, if you have given your details in any of the above places. Stealthily, they put in a condition that they would give the free gift, if you visit them with your family only and sit for one hour. They repeatedly claimed they would neither force nor sell anything in the meeting and would just provide info about their services. I thought "one to one marketing" and these guys could afford it - Not bad and it seemed that they get clients with families who visit them for free gifts. A good ROI for marketing investment, indeed.

Screw Up #1: Do you ever call a customer/prospect to your office to sell/market your services or request to meet them at their convenient place? Further put in a strict condition to meet family together? But resort businesses do have this audacity.

Good part is, there was a sense of professionalism in their follow ups. I postponed the visits as I was not interested in spending time hearing what they have to say to get a voucher. After 3-4 times, I gave in to the desire to reciprocate, as they kept repeating that 1 hour of my time is what they are after.

Immediately after, I was given a code number, there was a call from a so called manager (after the experience everything is circumspect) to confirm my visit and they were insistent that I visit them at a particular time. I indicated a time and they called to confirm. They elaborated how they prepare for each prospect visit by reserving a table, identify the materials, ship the gift to the place and plan ahead to give a good experience.

Till now, it was a mixed bag of reactions. But what happened when you visit their office, what they do with the earned 1 hour is a sour experience for me. But a gold mine of lessons at their expense, that I do not wish to hold it to myself.

We checked in their place. First thing that strikes you odd, is that there were empty chairs and tables with computer in every table.
Screw Up #2: Discontinued experience. The people in call were insistent on meeting time of their choice. Here we are staring at blank tables and chairs. Then why the fake ambiance of appointments, reserved tables, preparing materials, etc? If you had reserved a table, shouldn't my name be on one of the tables ?

Still having spent fuel and parking charges, we waited in the lobby.
Screw Up #3: If I have been given an appointment, why make me wait? Shouldn't my host, be ready.

We were made to fill a form. Five minutes later a person introduced himself. I said, you now have 50 minutes. He said his presentation is for an hour. I allowed to see what they have got.
Surprisingly, he told us about his personal details and asked our personal details.

Screw Up #4: Hello, Club Mahindra. Why do you train/ask your reps to say their personal details to me. I am not there to know him/her. I am there to evaluate your service and buy if I like. When I say, I am ok to listen further, your insistence on we saying our details is a put off.

Then, the worst thing was presented the worst way. The guy pulled out a questionnaire and said, he would now fill a pre-initiation checklist. And that if we qualify then he would continue otherwise we would get the gift voucher and walk off.

Blunder #5: Dont Club Mahindra fellows feel they are insulting their potential customer? You call a prospect at your place and you tell them that you are there to qualify if I can be your customer ? What the hell, do the process guys and trainers at Club Mahindra were thinking about this whole marketing design? WOULD ANY ONE IN A SANE MIND DO THIS ?

At this time, I felt it is time to quit their place. Still owing respect to the brand, I informed that he has 1 hour of my time and he can utilize it well, if required. Surprise, he goofed up again to SELL me their plans and said "I want a YES or NO from you with no hard feelings and we would not continue further, if your decision is No".

Screw Up #6: While you market, you do not sell. While you sell, you do not ask for YES or NO. Putting on my trainer hat, I explained that in business there is never a "no" for an answer. The best answer can be "NOT AT THIS TIME" and that would be my decision.

He immediately left his seat without basic courtesy of informing where he is going. He came back after 15 minutes to tell us that we need to wait for 1 hour to collect the voucher.

Blunder #7: You allow your reps to take a mobile call when they are sitting in front of prospect and leave their desk without a basic courtesy, that too in an appointment? You do not piss of a prospect at this stage. The damage they can do will be far more than what your customers would do for you.

At the end, I realized how foolish the people who were trained are, the quality of training imparted to them, the entire process design was left to poor executors. Is this what people say making an asshole of themselves ?

Worse, when I called in to tell them the bad experience, the manager who was professional enough earlier said, I would receive the voucher through courier that I asked them to do so in first place.

Would I ever be a customer of Club Mahindra again or any business doing such a mess in the initiation phase itself? Well, this time, the answer is as expected by the rep: "NEVER AT ANY TIME."

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